Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Do You Have Buffet Pants?

In my "healthy eating, healthy weight" class last weekend the attendees were talking about some previous habits that led them to becoming overweight. Now Janet is losing weight by making healthier choices, but what did she do to get to her present state of overweight?
"I used to have buffet pants," she confessed. "I had pants that were a little bit too big on me, roomy and with an elastic waist. When I would go out to eat at a buffet I would wear them, knowing that I would want the extra room when I finished eating all I could". Wow! She was planning to eat so much that she anticipated becoming uncomfortable in regular pants. She wore special pants to accomodate for the belly bloat she knew she would experience after an all-you-can-eat buffet. Does that sound familiar to anyone out there?

Here's the good news: she planned ahead! Now Janet can use this 'skill' she already knows she has. She can plan ahead before meals. This is such an important step when trying to lose weight. Thinking about the choices you will make ahead of time prevents deciding on something spur of the moment. Usually our spur of the moment choices are those we make just because we want something that sounds good or tastes good; not because it is a healthier, lower calorie and lower fat choice.
Now Janet plans her meals ahead of time. She knows what she's going to make for dinner ahead of time, she plans a smart choice for lunch before she goes to work, and she knows what she's going to order before she goes out to dinner. Most restaurants make their menus available online, some even pointing out their healthier choices.

If you have been able to plan what you were going to eat ahead of time when dining out in the past, you can still do it! I know I've heard many overweight people do this time and again--think about it. How many times have you looked forward to a particular dining experience, saying, "I can't wait to go there this weekend; I'm going to have their ribs--they are delicious!" or "I am really looking forward to the fettucini alfredo tonight--it's the best!" See? I know you've done it before so you can do it again! This time, try preparing ahead of time for the delicious entree that's a lower calorie choice. "That place has the best baked salmon/roasted chicken breast/broiled pork chops". Say it with me now, "I am going to enjoy exactly half of the plate tonight and savor the other half tomorrow for lunch".

Planning ahead is not hard and it is not new. You've done it before, but for a different reason. Now try doing it for the best reason--your new healthy eating plan!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Go Ahead, Embarrass the Waiter!

Recently I've been made aware of a roadblock that many dieters share. I never knew this situation existed, but apparently people do not order their food the way they'd like when dining out because it embarrasses their waiter.

"No," my overweight client says, "I could never ask for the butter and sour cream on the side--the waiter looks at me so strangely". "But," says the woman who has not been able to shed her 30 extra pounds for 15 years, "I could never ask them to bring just two rolls instead of a basket! It would be so inconvenient for them!"

Over and over I hear reasons why it would not be acceptable to ask for your food the way you want it when you eat out in a restaurant. "That's the way it comes, so that's the way you should order it," they tell me. How about, "since you are paying for it and they are making it for you, you should be able to ask them to make it the way you want it!" Why would it be inconvenient for the waiter to put two rolls in a basket instead of six? Why would it be any trouble for the chef to leave off the gravy? How would it be more work to put the butter and sour cream on the plate next to the potato instead of on it, or the dressing in a cup on the side instead of poured onto the salad?

Furthermore, people tell me they are embarrassing themselves by asking for a take-out container as soon as the food arrives. "Everyone will look at me strangely," fretted Donna. And Cindy told me, "If I split an entree with my husband, or order an appetizer for dinner instead of an entree, the waiter will think I'm cheap". Really? You care that much about the opinion of a 23 year old college student who you will never, ever see again? Frank told me he doesn't want to make a big deal of ordering his food in special ways because it will call attention to the fact that he's trying to lose weight.

I have a newsflash for all of you, although it's not politically correct. People know you are overweight. They see it. Twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. Is this not embarrassing? Is there some reason you are too proud to split a meal or take half of yours home, yet okay with walking around carrying 30, 40, maybe even 80 extra pounds?
How does it embarrass you more to ask for the sauce on the side than it does to worry about fitting into a chair in the restaurant dining area?

Take account of what really matters in your life. Get yourself healthy and stop worrying about how other people will take it! Start showing yourself, as well as others, that taking care of yourself is the priority and start doing it today.

I can't sign off without giving kudos to Liz, of course. Last night at a dinner function there were about eight of us at the table in a restaurant. When our meals started arriving Liz asked the waiter for a take-out container as soon as she got her plate. No one noticed (Can you believe it? No one took notice of Liz asking the waiter for something because they were all excited to have just received their own dinner!). I noticed, and I said to Liz, "I'm so impressed that you asked to have a take-home container as soon as you got your food--I hear some people feel funny about doing that". "Well," Liz told me, "I just lost 20 pounds and I'm planning to keep going for another 20. I'm going to keep making smart choices even when I'm eating out and feeling funny about it isn't going to sabotage my progress". Yay Liz!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Which Weight Loss Plan Is Right For You?

Since we are all individuals, we all need individually tailored diets. What works to help one person lose weight doesn't necessarily work for the next person. You have to examine the weight loss plans that are available and figure out which parts suit your lifestyle. This became most obvious to me when, during the past week, I had five different clients each verbalize, "The part that worked for me was...." and they each said something remarkably different! I find it so interesting to hear what, of all the tips I toss out each week, sticks for each of these women. Some find meaning in one off handed statement I made, while proven research is totally ignored. Yet they all have found success in something meaningful to each of them. Here are their stories:

I met Emily for coffee last week and she has lost 27 pounds over the past 7 months. Just perfect for her, since she consistently reassures me she is not dieting. "I still remember the first time we met to talk about my weight loss plan," she relates. "I couldn't believe that you were telling me it's just a matter of eating a few hundred calories less each day and exercising to burn off 100 more calories a day! The main thing is I just eat less butter now, and take a 20 minute walk every afternoon, and I still keep losing nearly a pound a week." For Emily, she just needed to become aware of what she was eating and find some lower calorie alternatives. "My favorite evening snack now is a handful of mini-chocolate chips melted over some strawberries. I just never get tired of eating that and it gets in one of my fruit servings!" For Emily, eating just a little bit less and walking just a little bit more has made more than a little bit of change in her weight!

Margaret is in my weekend "healthy eating" class and I've noticed quite a change in her confidence over the past 2 weeks. "What changed for you?" I asked. "For me," Mary answered, "it was deciding that I was going to do this for myself, focus on myself, and finally know that now is the time to take care of myself! I don't worry about what my husband chooses to eat or when he chooses to exercise. I cook healthy dinners in healthy portions and take the leftovers for lunch the next day. If there is a bite or two left over I actually throw it away instead of feeling obligated to eat it! I do what I know is best for me, and I'm already feeling my jeans get looser!" For Margaret, she decided to put all the worries aside about 'what will happen to other people if I do what I need to do' and decided she was worth the effort. It's paying off for her and she's feeling, possibly for the first time in her life, that she is really doing what's best for her.

Laura has made amazing changes in just one week. "I think before I eat. I don't always remember to assess my hunger level, but I always remember to ask, 'is this a good choice?'" She's practically cut her portions in half! At dinner time she uses smaller plates; when eating at restaurants she asks for a doggie bag even before she starts to eat; and when going out to lunch she gets the half sandwich option instead of the whole one. She asks herself before grabbing a snack at work, "do I really want this badly enough to sabotage my efforts to lose weight?" Weight loss is very important to her, and one affirmation that keeps her going is repeating, "I am making healthy choices". Instead of subconsciously repeating "I can't lose weight" she now believes she is a person who makes healthy choices; she tells herself that several times a day and it's working.

Lisa is thrilled with her weight loss progress. Losing up to two pounds a week during the first month, she has learned that there are no forbidden foods. "It makes losing weight so easy just knowing I can keep eating like this for the rest of my life. I love knowing I don't have to give up pizza or ice cream--I just can't eat huge portions and I can't have it every day". Lisa has started eating just about half as much of these foods as she used to. "Something about believing these foods are bad for me made me just want them so much more. Now I find my cravings for them have virtually disappeared, and just a taste is enough to satisfy me".

Each of these women found something that resonated with them. What might work for you? The good news is you can try them all out, for free :) Try keeping a food log one week, eating smaller portions the next, walking an extra 20 minutes a day, and finding an affirmation to remind yourself you can do it! You don't have to choose just one and you don't have to stick with one. How about a 'rotating' diet where you apply one principle one week and try another the next to keep from getting bored or discouraged.
Please! Post your comments here and let us know what works for you. Good luck with whatever you decide to try.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What Are These Calories Worth?

Thinking before you eat can save you lots of calories--not to mention indigestion-- and health problems in the long run. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself before you indulge in high calorie foods that may help you decide "It's not really worth it".
1) How will I feel after I eat this candy bar/donut/milkshake? Of course you want it now, that goes without saying. But how will you feel 15 minutes later? Will you feel satisfied? satiated? relaxed? If the answer is in some way better than you feel right now, it might seem to be a good choice. If you know you will not feel better in any way after enjoying the first few delicious bites, then think again before buying or biting. Realizing that you may feel guilty about it, tired shortly after from a sugar crash, or that having one piece of candy will just leave you wanting more, might help you wait 10 or 15 minutes to let the craving pass. You save 300 Calories!
2) Is this food worth the calories it will put into my body? Find out how many calories are in foods you are eating. Look up the calorie content of things you eat often. Search internet sites that provide calorie information, fast food restaurant nutrition information (just google 'burger king nutrition' for instance), and labels on foods you eat to get the information. Think about the number of calories you are getting from a side of fries, from a dessert, or from a piece of office birthday cake. Ask yourself beforehand, "Is this really worth the enjoyment I'll be getting in exchange for the calories I'm taking in?" Remember that if every day you bypass a 300 calorie indulgence it will mean a three pound weight loss at the end of the month! Maybe this sounds like too little to matter, but remember that a year from now that will add up to 36 pounds--not bad for just skipping a few treats that you didn't really want in the first place.
3) What would I have to do to burn off this number of calories? Again, checking internet sites for calories burned, find out what activities you would have to perform to burn off 200 or 300 calories. Remind yourself what you will have to do to even out the extra calories you take in from high calorie foods during the day. Ask yourself, "If I eat this ice cream am I willing to go out for a 40 minute walk to burn those calories?" If the exercise isn't in your plans, maybe the food shouldn't be either!

Think before you eat and decide whether you will really enjoy the food and feel good about eating it; whether you can spare a few hundred calories or you would rather lose weight by passing up on those fattening treats; and whether you are willing to be more active to burn the calories off. See how often you decide it's not really worth it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Resist Temptation by Changing Your Environment!

If you're having a hard time resisting those treats, maybe it's time to try another strategy. Is there something in your pantry, on your desk, or even on the drive home that you repeatedly indulge in, only to beat yourself up about it later? "Why did I drive thru and get fries again?"; "Why do I keep going eating the chocolate kisses on my desk?"
If your willpower or common sense isn't working, take a stab at changing your environment. Do what you can to avoid those tempting treats and see how this works for you. Here are a few suggestions:
1) Find another route home. You know your favorite QuickMart has that cappuccino drink you can't resist, so find another route home and stick to it. Out of sight, out of mind (not right away, of course, but soon enough!)
2) Buy treats for the office that YOU don't like! If you have candies or cookies around 'for everyone else' but you keep eating them, make an effort to bring in some type that you don't like. Fill in the blank: "I would never eat _____". Hate licorice? Fig Newtons? Bring these in for your coworkers and you won't be tempted!
3) Buy snacks for home that aren't your favorite. Keeping chips around for the rest of the family? Buy a flavor you don't like! I happen to enjoy Kettle chips, fritos, baked lays and anything sour-cream-and-onion flavored. But I don't like barbeque chips. What kind do I buy when I don't want to be snacking on chips all week? Maybe you guessed it--barbeque flavor!
4) Keep fattening snacks out of sight. Yes, sometimes we know they're there anyway, and they're even calling our name! But when you open the pantry door and the first thing you see are the Little Debbie cakes you adore, you are going to be much more likely to eat them! Move the snacks to a higher (or lower) shelf where they won't be the first thing you see. Keep rice and pasta and high fiber cereals within view--not things you'll be most tempted to grab and eat before you can think twice.
5) Hide, don't seek. Put ice cream, Halloween candy, and other temptations behind other foods in the freezer or cupboard. Yes, you might go for them anyway, but you may be less likely to eat them as often when you don't view them every time you open the door.

Try a new strategy. Keep tempting foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition as out of sight and out of reach as possible. Making them ultra convenient for you makes it more likely you will eat them more often. See if keeping them out of the house, out of reach, out of sight, or out of the office will save you from indulging even just a time or two this week!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Take a Tummy Check

As I've said before, stopping to think before you eat is a tremendous help on your path to healthy eating and weight loss. Here's some more advice on more specifically what to think about!
Check in with your internal cues (what does your tummy tell you?) the next time you are ready to eat a treat. Think about what is giving you the signal to eat. Often, it's merely the fact that some food is present in front of you. Someone hands you a piece of birthday cake, you see the candy bar display at the cash register, or you see the golden arches up ahead on the roadside. Check in and ask yourself, "Why am I going to eat this? Am I hungry? Maybe even full! How will I feel 10 minutes after I eat this?" I want to remind you I am not suggesting that you never eat a treat! Just that you think about it first and think about what it will mean to you. Often, you will realize that you aren't really hungry, and that you won't feel better in any way after you eat it. Sometimes you will at first think you want it, and then become aware that it would just be a quick reaction to gobble it down, giving you little satisfaction afterwards. You might weigh the options and see that in ten minutes you will feel a little indigestion and a lot of regret, so it wouldn't be worth it to eat!

What other external cues could be signaling you to eat? The smell of food is often overwhelmingly inviting! Walking past a bakery, a mall cookie store, or the airport cinnabon cart is hard to resist. Take a tummy check: Yes, the food smells good... Remember that smells have no calories, so enjoy that delicious aroma all you like :)
Now, ask yourself if you really want to indulge in an extra 300 calories, and how you will feel afterwards. Sometimes the answer will be yes, in which case you should savor each bite! Other times, you will do a check of your internal cues, realize you are not actually hungry, enjoy a few more sniffs of the baked goods, and walk on, feeling confident you made a great decision.

Next time you are about to treat yourself to a high calorie treat, stop for a moment and do a tummy check: Am I hungry? Is it my stomach telling me it's time to eat, or are my eyes, nose, or other senses giving me false signals that I need to eat. Stop to think, and save yourself a few hundred calories today!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

But, I really don't eat that much!

When and how did this weight creep up on me? One day I was a size 8 or 10, and just a few short years later it seems they are making clothes smaller than they used to!
How do we gain weight when we aren't really eating that much? The answer is, just as slowly as we lose it when we are on a calorie-restricted intake--a little bit at a time.
In fact, just because we noticed the weight all of a sudden doesn't mean we gained it all of a sudden. You might be gaining just one half pound a month. Not even noticeable for a year or so. In two years it has added up to a 12 pound total and you seem to have bumped up into the next clothing size "all of a sudden".
Even though you don't binge and gorge on food, and you may be actually trying to eat wisely most of the time, it doesn't take much to put on a few pounds a year.

Experts believe that it may come down to as little as 50 calories difference a day, and here's how: It takes approximately 3500 calories to equal one pound. Eat an extra 3500 calories and you gain a pound; exercise to burn an extra 3500 calories and you lose a pound. And this is true over a period of time. If you change your intake or exercise by 50 calories a day, it will take 70 days to change your weight by one pound. Certainly not a desirable rate if you are trying to lose weight! (Seventy days is more than two months.) But if you are taking in just 50 extra calories a day (say you've developed a new habit of popping a couple of chocolates in the afternoon, or switched to a large side of fries instead of a medium those 3 days a week you drive through the fast food place for lunch) you will end up gaining about five pounds during the period of a year. And what if you change jobs or houses and no longer walk a couple of flights of stairs every day or you now park closer so you're not walking as many steps each day? It could make the difference of 50 calories a day you are no longer burning--which translates to gaining five pounds this year.

Take a close look at your habits. You don't have to be eating huge amounts of food to be gaining weight over a long period of time. It might be a very small change you've made. The good news is, by making a very small change now, you can weigh five pounds less next year at this time! The slow weight loss is a trade-off for a small change--bigger changes mean faster weight loss. What can you change in your diet to take in 50 fewer calories a day? A bit less salad dressing or a lower fat variety? A smaller portion or a healthier snack? What about exercise--can you walk just ten more minutes a day or take the stairs instead of the elevator? These small changes will add up to a small weight loss month after month, until you're back into the size you like to be :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Make It Easy

Trying to figure out what to eat can be so overwhelming... make it easy!
Here's a great image of a food guide pyramid--not what the modern version looks like anymore, but an easy way to remember what to eat and how many servings to have.
If you choose the minimum recommended servings from each group (6 servings of grains, breads, and cereals; 2-3 fruits and 3-4 vegetables; 2-3 dairy servings; and 6 oz of lean meat per day) while limiting fats and sweets, your intake will be as low as 1200 calories, believe it or not. That's a low enough calorie intake for virtually anyone to lose weight.
Now, most people's first reaction is, "what? That's so much food!". Then I have them relate their usual intake, and their impression changes to "What? A serving of cereal is only 3/4 of a cup? A serving of chicken is just three ounces? I'd be starving!"
So maybe you don't have to crash your intake from 2200 calories all the way down to 1200 to lose weight. The idea isn't for you to go hungry. The plan should be for you to eat healthy foods so you get your nutrition, while you get enough of things that you like to maintain a feeling of satisfaction.
Just use the food guide pyramid as a starting point, and work out a compromise between their recommendations and your current diet. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Be sure to include several servings of dairy products each day: Milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese count--ice cream and cream cheese don't! Additional intake of calcium and other nutrients found in dairy products have been shown to help people lose weight.
2. Focus on increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables: While getting essential vitamins and minerals, you'll also be getting fiber and feeling more full, leaving less room for snacking on empty calorie items like chips and cookies. Plus, it's good for your mindset to be focusing on taking in more of some foods when you're trying to lose weight, instead of being preoccupied with what you plan to deprive yourself of.
3. Don't be afraid to include starches (carbohydrates) in your diet: But do so in moderation. One cup per meal is well within recommendations (cereal, mashed potatoes, rice, pasta) but that doesn't include a few rolls on the side!
4. Know what a portion of protein looks like (the size of a deck of cards) and stick to it: People forget, with all the hype of low carb diets, that protein foods provide calories, too. From lean fish and chicken that can have as little as 50 calories per ounce, fatty meats can provide more than 90 calories per ounce. If you indulge in a 12 ounce steak, you could be taking in over 700 calories at one sitting before you count the baked potato with sour cream and butter! (Hint: the baked potato is the least of the culprits in a meal like this!)
5. Get the facts: The food guide pyramid has been designed and re-designed over the years with the input of nutrition expert groups from across the nation. When you don't know what to believe, look to the organizations whose job it is to help you learn them. The American Dietetic Association, the USDA, the American Heart Association, and American Diabetes Association are good starting places. They're not trying to sell you anything so they have no ulterior motives when they all repeat the same advice: Keep your diet lower in fat, higher in fiber, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and get regular exercise!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Five-Tip Friday: Planning Exercise for the Weekend

The weekend's almost here, finally! You've had a busy five days, and maybe little time to work in exercise. Now that the weekend is upon us, you may have some free time to look forward to. How will you use it? Are you just going to while away more than 48 hours off, lazing in front of the tv? I hope not! Here are some ways you can get in a couple of hours of exercise and feel good about how you've used your time when you start back to the work week on Monday:

1. Consider starting your weekend exercising after work on Friday. What a great way to work off some of the week's stress and get an extra hour of exercise in. Maybe you can find a class at your gym that's offered Friday evening, or maybe your family will join you for a bike ride.
2. Find some exercise buddies. Any activity can be more fun when you're doing it with people whose company you enjoy. Walking, hiking, horseback riding, or jogging can all be done while having an enlightening conversation with friends. Invite some neighbors to join you and set up a time now--you'll be more likely to follow through with it then.
3. Find a local activity in your newspaper. There may be all kinds of group activities going on that are specially scheduled each weekend. Maybe a 10K run or a fundraising walk for a medical charity. Many times there aren't rules about whether you walk or run the route, or even rollerblade it! You can feel good about working out and contributing to a cause at the same time.
4. Check out local community programs Your community may offer some programs in swimming, adult dodge ball, softball, or other leagues. Remember how much fun you had doing these activities when you were a kid? There's still fun to be had!
5. Try a new activity Is there something you've been thinking about trying? Yoga, kickboxing, or ballroom dancing? Find a studio near you and sign up for some weekend classes. You'll be doing something you look forward to and doing your body a favor by staying active!

Please, post here to let us know what you've tried and how you enjoy your active weekends!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Too Many Options

I have a quote sitting on a sticky-note on my desk (actually I have about 17 of them, but they are all meaningful!) that says, "Too many options limit your commitments; too many commitments limit your options". To me this means that taking on too many activities, duties, or obligations results in having to say no to other opportunities that come along. It makes me think twice about taking on something new. I want to be sure to have the time and energy to expend on a future endeavor that I may find enjoyable or worthwhile. Too many commitments limit your obligations.

The other side of the quote is that too many options limit your commitments. When there are too many things available it makes our heads spin and we just don't know what to choose. Here are some instances of this: Which phone plan should I choose? Unlimited minutes? Unlimited texting? Family Plan? Two year contract?
What brand of jeans should I buy? Low rise? Button Fly? Flare Leg? Faded?
What flavor of coffee should I order--with or without foam? caffeine? fat? hot or cold?
How would you like to mail this? 1 day, 2 day, priority, first class? Do you want delivery confirmation? Insurance? Certified? Registered?
It's everywhere, every day. And it's enough to make you throw your hands up in the air and walk away shaking your head, thinking, "just forget it--it's making me dizzy to think about".

Supermarkets are a perfect example of too many options. If you shop in a typical grocery store there are hundreds of varieties of salad dressings, dozens of choices of coffees, even more different types of milk! These choices are a constant source of overwhelm, and make grocery shopping stressful for many people. If this is true for you, and makes eating healthy difficult as well, consider limiting your own choices.

My friend Katie is on a 'quick weight loss' commercial diet plan. She was telling me about it the other day, and how limited her choices are. She gets a special bar for breakfast, 4 ounces of chicken or fish for lunch and dinner, and a specified number of fruits and vegetables, milk, and whole grains during the day. She isn't allowed 'dark soda' or low fat dressing (salad dressing has to be a certain brand and it has to be fat free). "Why," she asks me, "can't I have low calorie dressing or diet cola?" I don't have an answer for her. I don't know why a colored beverage would affect her weight loss. I don't think having two tablespoons of low fat dressing will stop her from shedding the pounds. But I know she's dropping weight fast on this plan to the tune of about three pounds a week.

I have a friend who is a diet counselor at Jenny Craig. She tells me, "We tell people what to eat, and when to eat it". It takes their options away and they don't have to fret over all the decisions that precede each meal and snack.

Is Katie's weight loss a result of special combinations of food? By avoiding dark soda? By the magic breakfast bars? No. More than likely Katie is able to adhere to this diet because she doesn't have to make choices. She does have options, like what flavor breakfast bar to eat, and how to cook her chicken at dinner time. Same with the customers at Jenny Craig. The reason it works is they don't come home after work and walk in the door thinking, "what will I make for dinner? The number of possibilities are too much to bear--the easiest thing will be to pull out a take-out menu and order either Chinese or Italian--that's two choices and I can deal with that!"

Limiting your own options helps by taking away choices that can cause overwhelm. What can you plan in your daily diet that will help you make the best decision at each meal? Many studies show that people who eat the same breakfast and/or lunch each day find it easy to maintain their weight once they achieve their goal. Can you decide on a standard breakfast? For example, cereal and skim milk and fruit each morning? You can still have a variety of cereals to choose from so you don't get bored (raisin bran, grape nuts or oatmeal) and switch off fruits (banana or raisins or canteloupe) but you aren't faced with a mass of options each morning that leads you to decide, "donut--that's less work".

If joining a commercial weight loss program is what helps you, well, it's the end result that's most important. If you can do it yourself, that's great too. Think about some ways you can limit your options to two or three from each food group for every meal. It doesn't have to be a strict diet (like "I'll just eat tuna every day for 5 weeks"), but it can be a sensible plan that you can enjoy eating and find simple to follow ("I'll have a 300 calorie frozen meal for lunch every day with a piece of fresh fruit and a salad").
Limit your options to a few smart ones and see how this helps you, in your diet, and in your life!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

September is National Food Safety Education Month

I'd like to give you a few simple reminders about food safety, since this is National Food Safety Education Month. Sometimes we take food safety for granted ... keeping leftovers out a bit too long until we get around to putting it away; leaving hot food at room temperature for hours until all the company has arrived; or taking a chance on eating ten day old take-out because "it smells okay"!

Here are five food safety tips to keep you and your family from getting food poisoning:
1. Cook food thoroughly: This means using a meat thermometer when cooking meat, fish, or chicken. All meats should be cooked to at least 145 degrees--even if rare--but poultry and pork should be cooked to at least 165 degrees, ground beef to 160 degrees. Always place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food and away from the bone.
2. Cool food thoroughly: When putting away leftovers, allow food to cool down a bit before placing it in the refrigerator. If the leftover dish is quite large, consider dividing it into smaller portions. The refrigerator should be cold enough to keep chilled foods at 40 degrees or below.
3. Treat leftovers with care: Leftovers should be put away in the fridge or freezer within two hours. If you have company coming late and your meal is sitting out at room temperature, opt for keeping the food warm in the oven so that it doesn't cool down to less than 140 degrees. When re-heating leftovers, only warm up enough for you to eat at that sitting; continuing the cycle of reheating food, placing it back into the refrigerator, then reheating it again the next day, increases the chances of acquiring a foodborne illness.
4. Handwashing: Always wash your hands before cooking, after handling raw foods (such as meat or chicken), after using the restroom, and before eating. The number one cause of food-poisoning is poor handwashing. Use warm water, lots of soap, and rub your hands together to create friction for at least 20 seconds each time you wash your hands.
5. Avoid cross-contamination: This is what happens when you use the same knife, counter, or cutting board to cut raw chicken, then raw vegetables for a salad, or fresh fruits for dessert, or a loaf of bread. Just as your hands can spread germs to the food you will eat, so can a knife or a cutting surface. Any time a utensil comes in contact with raw meat it should be thoroughly washed before cutting anything else. Some people have a special cutting board, or special knives, they use just for raw meat, and another they use for fresh fruits or vegetables. Just be sure everyone who uses the kitchen knows the rules!

It all comes down to staying out of the danger zone (40-140 degrees) where bacteria grow easily and quickly, keeping HOT foods HOT and COLD foods COLD. And always remember, "When in doubt, throw it out"!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Free teleclass one week from today!

I'd like to tell you about next week's teleclass so you can mark it on your calendar! At 7 pm (central time) on Tuesday, September 9th, my guest host this month is Sandra Martin, RN, MHS. Sandra has been working in corporate wellness and health promotion for over 20 years, and now lead workshops on emotional fitness.

Please mark your calendars and be sure to join us to hear about a different approach to eating issues: the emotional side. Experience one of the skills that "The Solution" process teaches you to use to check in with your emotions before you eat.
Email me at laurie@mycoachlaurie.com to register. Attendance is free but space will be limited!

In the meantime, you can call in to hear last month's call (How to get more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet) to see what a teleclass is like--call 641-715-3414and enter access code 553407#
This recording will be available until September 9th, 2008.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Have You Included Enough Pleasure In Your Plan?

I was having a conversation today with a group of life coaches about life planning, and the question arose about how much fun and pleasure we should expect in our lives. The answers ranged from "there just can't be too much" to "the limit would be an amount that interferes with your responsiblities" to "anything can be fun if you make it fun--even housework!" It comes down to our attitude. If you want fun in your life, go for it! Fun and pleasure can be a major focus of what we want in life and we can gain it in several ways.

First, when you do have leisure time, plan something that would be fun for you or give you pleasure. It might be an activity, like riding a bike or taking a trip, or it might be just taking a nap. It doesn't have to be something unique and fantastic but it should be something you enjoy!
If there is something you want more of in your life, figure out a way to get it. To quote Charles Buxton: "You will never 'find' time for anything...if you want time you must make it"!

Second, you'll find optimism to be a very helpful mindset. Having a positive outlook really helps your brain stay open to more possibilities. Pessimism can have the effect of shutting your brain down to any new options. Optimism helps you see new ways, be open to trying new things. Training yourself to think positively can work wonders in helping you solve problems, develop plans, and take actions.

Finally, keep your long term goals in mind as well as your short term goals. What is important in your life, overall? An interesting musing I read this weekend was the distinction between pleasure and happiness: Pleasure is felt short term, like enjoying a massage, while happiness is experienced over the long term. If you choose to be happy, this will be affected by the decisions you make each day. Think about what you are doing during a typical day and how it may affect your overall happiness. Trying to lose weight? Having that donut may give you immediate pleasure, but will it contribute to your overall happiness or will it be sabotaging that goal?

What will give you pleasure, fun, and an improved outlook on life? Take a little time to think about it, make a plan, and enjoy living life on your terms starting today!